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Archive for May, 2008

After months of bitter cold Summer has finally arrived, and with it comes the dry skin, sunburn, poison ivy and a whole host of other summertime complaints. Don’t get me wrong. Summer is my favorite season! Lazy days on the river bank, camping, float trips, music festivals…I love the summertime! I’m just not so crazy about the thought of coating my skin with commercial bug repellents and toxic sunscreens.

So, what’s a body to do?

If sitting inside in the air conditioning is your idea of summer fun, more power to you and this blog post probably won’t hold much for you. If you wanna get out there and soak up the sun, though, read on, my friend!

First of all, let me just say this…

With all the pollution, thinning of the ozone, global warming and the coming of the next ice age, our skin is facing grave danger every day. As someone with highly-sensitive, whiter-than-white, super dry skin, I know how important it is to keep it protected and moisturized.

I’m an avid swimmer and have been since I joined the swim-and-dive team at 6 years old. I swam before I walked. Literally. I even have pictures to prove it somewhere! I was at the pool bright and early from the day it opened until the night it closed for the season. Trust me when I say that chlorine, sunscreen and all your other summertime chemicals can really do a number on your skin and hair!

By the end of my 20’s, I had a whole host of skin and hair issues. I developed fabric sensitivities (nylon, rayon and a bunch of others), detergent sensitivities, hygiene product sensitivities (soap, shampoo, conditioner), psoriasis, eczema…I got them all. I was an itchy, flaky, acne-riddled mess with some fried-out hair to seal the deal.

Personal care products? I tried them all. Over-the-counter, behind-the-counter, under-the-counter, catty-corner-from-the-counter. Name brand, store brand, no brand. My bathroom had bottles and jars from every bath and beauty manufacturer known to man (well, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea, right?) Some of them would work for a few days…a week…maybe even a month. Never much longer than that, though.

It was about that time that I was beginning to study herbalism. Now, sometimes I’m not too quick. Even after all that I was learning about herbs and their ability to heal and protect the body, it took a while for the idea of herbal skin care to evolve for me. After all, the 90’s were not really about natural anything. We were a generation of quick, cheap and easy.

Finally, the idea dawned, though. It was an idea that changed my life. Simplified it, really. I wish I could say it was a quick fix and overnight my skin and hair magically changed. That wasn’t the case, though. I started small. Moved to a more natural soap (I thought), then ditched the soap all together. Yes, I still use soap for all those vital parts like between the toes, within the recesses of my inny-belly-button…places like that, but never on the parts that are most sensitive like the arms and legs or the belly or back. And never, ever, ever on my face. My face hasn’t felt soap on it for almost 5 years. Or acne. Or dry patches.

Then, we moved to the country. Now, I don’t know if you really know what I mean when I say country, but imagine this. It’s the Ozark Mountain Foothills. Rolling Mountains covered in dense, rich forests for as far as the eye can see. Even the power lines that connect us to the rest of the world are absorbed among the trees and mountains. To get home, we drove 3.7 miles down a dirt and gravel road before we reached our driveway, which was another quarter mile. Forget to grab milk on the way home? That’s too bad because it’s a 25 minute drive to the nearest gas station where they sell you a half-gallon of milk for $4.00. That’s the kind of ‘in the country’ I’m talking about.

My skin was so not happy. With country living comes mosquitos, ticks, chiggers, fleas and a whole host of other biting and stinging creatures that you just don’t see much of in the city or town. There is also the gardening to be done because that’s about the only way you are going to find fresh fruits and veggies in the middle of no where. And, there was tending to the animals…feed the horses, groom the horses, ride the horses, feed the chickens, feed the goats…a never ending stream of ‘to-do’s that had me out in the blistering Missouri sun through some of the hottest hours of the day.

At the end of one particularly miserable day in August I’d had enough. It was almost 110 degrees outside, I’d been stung twice by wasps, after which I stepped barefoot onto a patch of stinging nettle while getting the laundry off the line. My fair, sensitive skin was blistered because, like an idiot, I ran outside to do a quick chore without applying the usual layers of sunscreen and bug spray, and it turned into an hour long ordeal that ended with me covered in seed ticks and a severe sunburn. I was quite miserable and ready to peel my skin from my body.

So, I took a vinegar bath then coated my skin in aloe vera, sat down at the computer and embarked upon a journey that led me to where I am today…the owner of a bath and beauty business that is doing amazingly well and allowing me to help others who suffer from some of the many issues that had me a miserable mess.

I told you all that for a few reasons.

~ I feel like it is important for you to understand that I know whereof I speak. I’ve been there. I’ve felt that misery and pain, and that wishing that someone would just dip your body in a vat of acid because being skinless might hurt a lot less than dealing with all the skin problems.

~I’m not gonna bullshit you. Sure, I hope you’ll buy some of my fantastic products. Of course, I do. Would you believe me if I said otherwise? However, more than that, I just want you to know there are other options out there that really have worked for me. I’ll share my ingredients with you. I’ll share my knowledge with you. I got into this business to help people. Making a buck is secondary. If I ever lose that philosophy I’ll close the doors on my shop.

And, now that I’ve rambled on a spell, I’ll get to the point of this whole blog. How to handle summertime a little more naturally and a lot more comfortably.

Let’s talk SPF. If a product claims to have a certain SPF factor, you can be pretty certain that it contains one or more of the chemicals listed here. These are bad chemicals. Chemicals that will hurt you. Remember, the skin is the largest organ of the body and absorbs more chemicals and toxins faster than any other organ. These chemicals will seep into your skin. The debate arises with two questions. Do the benefits outweigh the risks, and are there any alternatives?

So, do the benefits outweigh the risks?

You have to answer this question yourself, but my answer is a resounding NO! I hate sunburns. There are few things in life more miserable and uncomfortable than that first sunburn of the year. In fact, the only think I can think of that is more miserable than that is the itchy, dry skin, mild nausea and possible cancer that comes with most sunscreens.

Are there alternatives?

Most definitely. However, because natural ingredients often vary from batch to batch, it is nearly impossible to set an SPF value on them. The process of testing the SPF is long and very expensive and would have to be done on each batch of product that is made. I would imagine, too, that as the natural ingredients age and lose potency the SPF value would change. This is why most natural sunscreens cannot list an SPF. That doesn’t mean they don’t have one or that they don’t work just as well. A point I set out to prove four summers ago with remarkable results.

I studied avidly. While the rest of my family slept, I spent hours poring over books and websites. I contacted scientist (I’m fortunate to live in a small college town with very friendly professors!) and reached out to other herbalists and B & B makers. Then, when I was sure my brain was going to explode from all the info, I saved up some money and invested in a whole mess of natural ingredients to experiment with.

I mixed and blended and screwed up and repeated. When I had a couple formulas that I thought might work, I recruited volunteers from among my friends and family (and even a couple of brave strangers). All summer long that first year they slathered my crazy concoctions over their bodies in place of their favorite sunscreen, though I suspect many of them kept a bottle handy just in case! The first year produced mixed results. There were a couple of sunburns and a couple of rashes, though none severe.

When the summer was over, I sorted through my notes and studied the results. I tweaked and twiddled the formulas, took out something here…added something there. By the next summer, I was sure I’d perfected it.

I was pretty close to right. At the end of the second summer we had no sunburns and only two rashes, one of which we later discovered was a reaction to the natural latex in shea butter. I worried about this, since shea butter is one of the most magnificent natural UV protectants known. Still, I created a small batch without the shea butter that worked wonderfully, but I kept the original formula for the rest of us.

Despite it being one of the hottest, driest summers on record for Missouri and long hours spent outdoors, I’m happy to tell you that we had a rash and sunburn free summer last year. As an added bonus, this formula left everyone’s skin super-soft and flake free and only had to be reapplied every 4-5 hours.

I bet you want a batch of this stuff, don’t you?

Sorry. It’s not for sale. Yet. And, even when it is, I won’t call it sunscreen. I can’t. That would be making a medical claim and I’m not a doctor.

Here’s a few of the ingredients that are in it that are known for their superior ability to block UV rays, as well as some that are great for restoring and protecting skin from damage, though. Maybe you can mix up your own experiment!

~Unrefined, unprocessed Shea butter ~

Recent clinical studies have found that shea butter protects skin against climate and UV aggressors, and is also capable of helping regenerate and heal damaged skin cells. It was shown to prevent wrinkles, and is a natural emollient. Shea butter forms a breathable, water-resistant film on the film that makes it a great ingredient to use in sunscreens that you don’t want to have to keep reapplying.

~Unrefined Mango butter~

Like shea butter, mango butter is known for its ability to moisturize and heal, as well as protect the skin from UV radiation. It fights wrinkles and leaves the skin soft and supple.

~Honey~

This natural antioxidant has been used in skin care for more than 5000 years. It is a natural moisturizer that contains antimicrobial properties (which means that micro-organisms cannot grow in it) and has been used to help protect the skin from damage by the sun’s rays.

~Grapeseed Oil~

An Ohio State University study found that, when applied topically, grape seed oil helped wounds heal faster with less scarring. It works by building epidermal and connective tissue. The tissue, amazingly enough, grew back denser. Bulkactives.com has a website that explains the findings of a recent study concerning grape seed oil and UV radiation. It’s pretty amazing stuff!

~Zinc Oxide~

Remember the white-nosed lifegaurd image? Yeah…that’s zinc oxide. It works primarily by reflecting and scattering UV light so it can’t be absorbed into the skin. You can find some great info on zinc oxide (and titanium oxide, which is also in the formula) at Pinkquartzminerals.com. While you’re there you really oughtta check out her mineral makeup, too. Its absolutely fabulous!

If you check out my posts on natural ingredients, you will find a wealth of information on many of these ingredients. If you would like more info on my little experiment, all you gotta do is drop me a line.

In the meantime, here are a couple of other fantastic sites to check out for more info on SPF and natural ingredients.

http://www.majesticjus4u.com/gpage2.html

http://www.pureknowhow.com/content/sunscreen.php

http://www.raw-beauty.com/ingredients.asp

bite balm tube

Oh, and remember that August day that was so miserable for me? It also inspired me to create this fantastic Bite and Sting ointment that is available at Tamara’s Herbes. That’s a post for next time, though….

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Lose the Soap

One of my most requested items since opening my Etsy shop has been my Blooming Beauty toner.

Blooming Beauty Toner

Whether it is teens with adolescent acne or women approaching menopause, this toner has made a remarkable difference for many of my customers.

Everyone has a theory on what causes acne.  Hormones, chocolate, dirt, infection…these are just a few of the likely culprits.  What most people don’t consider is soap.  I don’t care how gentle, natural or ‘safe’ a soap is, it is still soap and it is, quite likely, going to cause you some issues.  Especially when you use it on your face.

Here is why I believe my Blooming Beauty Toner stands out from all the other facial toners out there.

~It contains natural cleansers(jojoba oil, sesame oil, aloe), which eliminates the your need for a soap/cleanser.  It saves you both time and money.   It even removes the stubbornest waterproof mascara without scrubbing or using harsh products that could damage your eyes.

~It contains ingredients that are known to tone the skin, as well as heal damaged tissues, reduce fine lines, balance out the pH of your skin, reduce oiliness and dryness and prevent future damage(apple cider vinegar, grapeseed oil,  peppermint, patchouli,  red clover).

~It contains natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal ingredients(goldenseal root, tea tree oil).  That means that it may help clear up current acne and help eliminate future breakouts.

~It contains natural moisturizers(grapeseed oil, jojoba oil, sesame oil, aloe, vegetable glycerin).  This eliminates the need for an extra moisturizer, again, saving you both time and money.  The natural oils in this product have been for centuries by cultures around the world to help prevent dryness in the skin.

I issue you a challenge.  If you have skin issues that haven’t responded as well as you’d hoped to other treatments, try this.  You can’t lose.  If it doesn’t work, I’ll refund the cost of the product.  If it does, you’ve found the beautiful skin you’ve been looking for and I’ve found a happy customer!

You can find this product at Tamara’s Herbes.

I can’t wait to hear from you!

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Water Nymph Salt Scrub

I love salt scrubs. Not every day, but every now and then. I guess that’s why it always surprises me to hear someone warning us not to use a salt scrub. Their biggest concern is that salt has a natural tendency to dry out the skin, but it leaves my skin so fresh and healthy looking and lends a wonderful glow!

So, before I decided to invest the time and money in developing my own salt scrubs, I figured it might be a good idea to do a bit of research. Some of what I found I already knew, but some of what I found really surprised me.

Turns out, I couldn’t find much evidence of salt being drying to the skin. In fact, salt is actually recommended to help treat dry skin. Of course, there is the exfoliation aspect, too. Salt is a fabulous exfoliator that gently scrubs away dead, dry skin and has natural cleansing/sanitizing properties. An added bonus to using it as an exfoliator is that, rubbing salt vigorously over your skin promotes circulation, which is what gives your skin the ‘glow’.

And we haven’t even gotten to the good stuff, yet!

Everyone has heard of Dead Sea Salt, but do you really know what makes Dead Sea Salt so valuable in skin care? Check this out~

~It contains sulfur, which is contained in every cell of your body. The body needs sulfur to properly manufacture collagen, which helps keep the skin elastic and youthful; hemoglobin (deals with the blood); keratin (required for healthy skin); insulin, heparin, biotin, co-enzyme A, (required for healthy hair, skin, nails and many other biological structures).

~It contains over 80 other vitamins and minerals that are essential for healthy skin.

~It stimulates your circulation and allows your skin to release toxins from your system

Then, there is Himilayan Pink salt. This is another unbelievable salt. Look at what this one can do for your skin!

~This salt contains 84 trace minerals and iron ~ that is every trace mineral and element found in the human body. They are tiny particles within the salt that are easily broken down by the body for use by the cells.

~This salt helps balance your acid-alkaline levels, balance your energy level, helps break down the toxins and pollutants in your system for easy removal, and there are even a few unsubstantiated claims that it helps with cellulite.

We haven’t even touched on what salts can do for your sore, strained, aching muscles and the many other organs of the body. That’s a whole other post!

So, after all my research my belief remains the same. Salt scrubs are awesome!

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When I was a kid I wanted to be a treasure hunter.  I’d hide a favorite toy, an unusual rock or a stack of monopoly money in the oddest places and draw a map with a big red X to mark the spot.  My friends, bless them, were always good sports about it when I’d push the map into their hands and insist they find it.

I’ve decided I miss the good old days and I’ve drawn another map, of sorts.  I’m pushing it into your hands.  It’s time for a treasure hunt, my friends!

What I’ve hidden?  A quote.  It’s been divided into 2 easily recognizable pieces.  One piece can be found somewhere within the confines of http://tamarasherbes.etsy.com.

The other piece can be found in my other Etsy shop.

Where is that, you ask?  Well, if I just up and told you then there would be no need for you to poke around my shop in search of that tidbit, now, would there?

Just finding both pieces of the quote is not enough, though.  I also require the author of the quote.  You’ll have to discover that answer on your own!

Of course, no one wants to go on a treasure hunt if there’s no treasure to be found.  That would just be silly.  So, I’m offering the winner this:

1st person to answer correctly ~ $10.00 gift certificate valid in both of my Etsy shops

2nd person to answer correctly ~ 20% off coupon valid in both of my Etsy shops

3rd person to answer correctly ~ 10% off coupon valid in both of my Etsy shops

I’ll post the winners here when it’s all over.

Happy hunting!

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Grapeseed and Sesame oil are obviously fantastic carrier oils, but they are by no means the only ones. While I find them to be the most versatile, there are many other oils that provide healing, nourishing benefits to the human body on both the inside and the outside.

Another one of my favorites is Sweet Almond oil. Word of warning, though….If you are allergic to nuts, you should stay away from this one! That being said, this is a great oil to keep on hand. It is more affordable than many of the other carrier oils and contains many healing properties. Of course, it has valuable nutritional qualities when taken internally, but I want to focus on the use of Sweet Almond oil on skin and hair.

Sweet Almond Oil

The Botanical name is Prunus amygdalus var. dulcus. Quite a mouth full, eh? The oil comes from the seed of the Almond tree. Don’t be fooled…the seed is the same as the nut , in this case, which is why those allergic to nuts should probably leave this one alone. Notice, too, that it is sweet almond, not bitter almond that we are discussing!

It has a light, pleasant fragrance that is just slightly sweet and nutty. It is mildly oily and will leave your skin feeling a little oily, but not for too long. It absorbs into the skin fairly quickly and doesn’t leave behind much of an odor.

Sweet Almond oil contains glucosides, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium, vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and E and is very rich in protein. That means it can help soften, sooth, hydrate and protect your skin while helping to prevent wrinkles and age spots.

It is a good oil for all skin types, but is especially good for skin ailments like eczema, psoriasis, or any other type of dermatitis. It helps to relieve itching, soreness, dryness and inflammation. Sweet almond is a very lubricating oil which makes it a good massage oil and also works wonderfully when you need a natural protectant for you skin and hair.

The downside of Sweet Almond oil is that, on its own, it will go rancid fairly quickly compared to many of the other carrier oils.

And then, we have the incredible

Jojoba Oil

Jojoba Oil

Jojoba oil is a liquid wax produced in the seed of the Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) plant and is valuable because it is chemically similar to human sebum which is secreted by human sebaceous glands to lubricate and protect skin and hair. As we age, pollutants, environmental toxins, stress and other factors will cause our natural sebum production to diminish. Jojoba oil is perfect as a replacement!

Native Americans have used jojoba for hundreds of years for many reasons. They use it to treat sores, wounds, bruises, and burns Most importantly for this discussion, though, is its cosmetic value. It was used as a natural, effective cleanser for skin and hair. It is believed that it works by going to the hair root to prevent and protect the hair. It is said to be capable of dissolving excess sebum build up and cleaning the hair shaft.

It has been used as a moisturizer, conditioner and softener for the skin and hair, also. It is reported to help reduce wrinkles and stretch marks, to fade scars and to promote healthy scalp and hair. Long hours spent in the sun can mean sunburn, windburn and dry skin. Jojoba oil provides protection and relief for all of these conditions by forming a lipid layer on the skin that acts as a moisturizer, as well as penetrating and being absorbed by the outer layer of skin.

By far one of the most stable oils known, it has been proven to stand up to extreme heat and cold over extended periods of time without going rancid or losing any of its valuable properties. Since jojoba oil does not become rancid, it is often added to other oils to extend their shelf life.

Jojoba oil is nontoxic, noncomedogenic (does not clog pores) and hypoallergenic. It has no reported adverse effects.

I have done what I set out to do…introduce you to a few of the butters and oils used in the making of my products. I hope you have found something beneficial to take with you.

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